Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Berger, minerality, terroir...

Dan Berger penned an article about terroir after attending the UCD Terroir 2006 confrence last week. [read it here]

Problems I find within it? Well, for starters he...

  • suggests soil minerals affect the aroma & taste of the finished wine [those differences are on a parts-per-million level, and these soil mineral influences are so inconsequential, minor and ephemeral in nature that they essentially aren't part of the tasting experience for human beings]
  • suggests larger geographic app's don't deliver terroir, while smaller apps DO [Helllooooo! can you spell "pretentious"...?]
  • suggests the recent terroir conferences were partly about how irked 'professors' were that terroir was being 'ignored' by critics [a tacit acknowledgement perhaps that terroir is currently of more 'academic' interest than usefulness to consumers]
  • suggests the problem is the 100 pt scale for rating wines [say what..?]
  • claims that more extracted wines 'ALWAYS SEEM' to garner higher ratings [is it possible - just slightly possible - that people might actually prefer these wines? And does he not read Jancis Robinson? Or Clive Coates, etc?]
  • suggests that critic's don't bother with subtle influences - such as he claims that Terroir influences are [a wild suggestion since weather and climate are included in his definition] when rating wines with a 100 pt system
  • WTF?! And who gives a shit about what Randall Graham thinks? He's made some good wines, but I'm not about to follow him around - the guy's made some pretty loopy statements in the past [not to mention Randall's new found love of Biodynamics, which is pure bunk...]
  • why does he start out by saying that it's "true that each grape-growing plot of land has it's own unique mineral content, which impacts aroma and taste

I appreciate climatic and weather related differences in wines, and have come to expect them. But listen, just 'cuz someone rates a wine using a 100 pt scale doesn't mean they rate wines from Tasmania the same as they would a wine from Texas [climate and winemaking techniques COUNT people!]...

For Dan to prove his statements he would have to reveal why grapes picked on the same day by the same people, from the same vineyard block and fermented in identical ways by the same vintner & crew still turn out different from each other.

Without being able to do that, he leaves the door wide open, and his premise seems to escape from him.



Blogger caveman said...

Super Vin,

I'll read his stuff later but with respect to this whole extremely debatable question of where minerality comes from, how do you explain the realtively constant (and unique) 'minerality' in both Chablis and the Mosel?

April 04, 2006 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Dino said...

I dearly love Chablis, bu the answer to Caveman's question is in the 2003 vintage. The answer being under-ripe grapes. Chablis was hot and dry. The 2003s taste like (California) chardonnay not Chablis, ripe and rich. As one reviewer put it, "most 2003s will always be characterized more by their vintage than by their site character—and will be enjoyed as good chardonnay rather than as typical Chablis."

April 04, 2006 2:37 PM  
Blogger caveman said...

I have drunk a whole bunch of 03 chablis and while it is atypical in the sense that it lacks a certain acidity (ie feels fatter), it is still has chablis character (as do much of muscadet and Mosel). I would agree that some of the 03 Beaune drifts into the cali chard thing.

You don't think that the kimmeridgean-Jurassique sub soil has any effect on Chablis character?

And I would be remiss and dissapoint our host if i didn't mention that the grapes in 03 were over-ripe, while 02, 96 and other great vintages were perfect ripeness.

April 04, 2006 7:06 PM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

I think Dino is dead-on target here. Most of the 'minerality' which is perceived is due to the levels of tartaric and malic acids in the fruit to start with...those levels being inversely related to the temperatures experienced during the season.

The relatively constant 'minerality' is primarily due to the climate of the areas...cooler climates have higher acid level fruit. And that minerality is not necessarily unique, I have experienced many gravelly-mineral notes in California Chards from Mendocino County for example. Again it's a very cool climate to have your vines in, and doesn't normally see enough really hot weather to allow the vines to metabolize the acids too low. Santa Cruz & Santa Barbara Counties are yet another example of areas with higher acid levels and some nice mineral notes, but Santa Barbara County generally has too much fruit aroma (Jeez, did I just say that?! I must be running a fever...) and concentration which overpowers the mineral notes.

Bill, thanks for not disappointing me!...but 'perfect ripeness' is subjective to the desired end result, and I'll let the two of you argue that point in regard to various Chablis vintages...


April 05, 2006 11:32 PM  

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